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Private bypass

August 12, 2014

A431 toll road

Bathtollroad    crack   roadworks_2994954c

In February 2014 a landslip on the A431 between Bristol and Bath opened cracks in the road and forced a 14 mile diversion. It was tricky to repair; the council estimated it would be closed till the end of the year, and that a temporary bypass would cost £1.6M and take 16 weeks to build.

So in August local businessman, Mike Watts, took matters into his own hands and built a diversion a few hundred yards up the hillside. It took three men ten days, and £150,000; plus a further £1,000 per day to operate. So long as the council don’t speed up, £2 per car should pay for it.

diversion   Mike_Watts_at_a431_toll_road._Kelston

It’s the first new toll road in Britain since the M6 bypass, and the first privately built one for at least a hundred years.

We need more. Let’s replace the “free” tarmac we currently overuse  with correctly priced alternatives. Imagine the pollution that could prevent.

Jim Thornton

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Trial registration TIPPS

July 30, 2014

Heparin prophylaxis in pregnancy

Doesn’t work

The TIPPS trial, published online in The Lancet this week (click here), shows that among high risk women, heparin thrombo-prophylaxis does not reduce adverse pregnancy outcomes, and increases rates of  bleeding. The researchers did a great job, and their findings will protect many women from these toxic drugs.   In passing they also reminded us of the importance of trial registration.

Did unregistered trials get it wrong?

heparin SR lancet

Figure 3 (above) shows the results of all seven heparin thrombo-prophylaxis trials to date.  The top four, Rey, Gris 2010, Gris 2011, and Mello, were unregistered and all showed an implausibly large beneficial effect.  The bottom three, Martinelli, De Vries, and Roger, (Roger = TIPPS)  were registered in advance so the researchers could not stop early, decide not to publish, or alter their primary outcome, without someone  noticing. None showed a benefit.

The TIPPS authors  half suggest that the truth lies somewhere between the two groups, namely the “combined (random effects)” relative risk line at the bottom of the figure. I doubt it!  More likely the top four trials got their false positive results by repeatedly peeking at their data, selective choice of endpoints or selective publication. The bottom three show the truth.

TIPPS researchers also silently altered sample size

It seems churlish after all that, to question the TIPPS trial methods, but “needs must”.  In the published paper the authors claim to have “aimed for a sample size of 284”.  Recruitment ran from 28 Feb 2000 to 14 Sept 2012 and the trial was first registered with (click here) on 29 May 2009. Between then and 23 April 2013 the archives (click here – variable 27) recorded anticipated recruitment of 385 – that’s 101 more than they claimed in the paper! This was altered to 284 on 23 April 2013, and changed again to the actual recruitment number of 292 on 16 May 2013. None of this is mentioned in the published paper. Tut tut!

The TIPPS results were negative, so perhaps this doesn’t matter. Presumably the authors stopped early because they ran out of money, rather than because they had peeked at the data and discovered a nominally significant result.  But imagine if TIPPS had been positive.  Readers would have assumed that they had cheated.

Jim Thornton

Canoeing the Weser

July 29, 2014

The third German river

Unlike the Rhine and Elbe, the Weser can be canoed from its origin. It starts not as a tiny stream, high in the hills, but fully formed at the junction of the rivers Werra and Fulda at Hann. Munden. The sea at Bremerhaven is 450km away, but the lower sections, below the junction with the Mittleland canal at Minden, have much heavy shipping – scary.

The section from Hann. Munden to Hameln, the home of the Pied Piper, has no locks, plenty of campsites and perhaps two barges and a few tourist boats a day.  It is fast flowing – five easy days paddle – and about a days driving from Dover. I used the Hann. Munden – Cuxhaven Radwander-karte (click here) .

0 km – Launch from the car park on the island at the junction of the Werra and Fulda at Hann. Munden, or from the campsite on the Fulda island 100 yards upstream.

fulda    werrer    Weser start junction Fulda and Werra

Or launch into the Fulda above the lock and paddle to the right of the island.  The weir, with its hydro-electric power station right, has a canoe shoot left.

fulda above last lock.  Right channel to weir   fulda weir2   fulda weir canoe shoot

fulda weircanoe shoot2   hann munden hydro power station   fulda werra junction

Good landing stage/launch spot just below the last Fulda lock by the campsite.

last fulda lock   landing stage below last fulda lock at hann Munden

0.5 km – road bridge  B3/B80

b3-b80 bridge    b3-b80 bridge2

5 km – Hilwartshausen Abbey left

hilwartshausen abbey

5.5 km – gravel pits right

11 km – ferry. Reinhards-hagen left. The small village of Hemeln right is not the home of the Pied Piper. That’s at 133 km. 

reinhards-hagen ferry3   reinhards-hagen ferry4    reinhards-hagen sculpture

Statue of the legendary giantess Brama on the left bank downstream of the town.

Wesercamping Hemeln The main site is set back from the river but they allow camping on the bank.

17 Km – Glashutte. Youth campsite right

youth club campsite glashutte

19 Km – River Nieme joins right.  Bursfelde Abbey right

bursfelde abbey

22 km – Weisse-hutte camping left

weiss-hutte landing point

25 Km – Ferry. Oedelsheim right.

Oberweser ferry   oedelsheim ferry

25.5 km – Camping right. Lovely site. Kanu Shumacher trips launch from here.

odelsheim campsite

28 km – Camping left

gieselwender campsite2

29 km- Bridge. Gieselwerder left

gieselwender bridge2

33 Km – Ferry. Lippoldsberg right

lippoldsberg ferry

34 km – Bodenfelde right.

bodenfelde industrial area   bodenfelde

35 km – Wahmbeck ferry

wahmbeck ferry2

Look out for this structure on the left, just before Bad Karlshafen bridge .

bad karlshafe gradienwerk

It filters the local mineral water through a network of twigs, creating a briny vapour which is supposed to have health giving properties. Probably does as much good as most alternative therapy. At least if you’re sitting next to it, no-one’s operating on you, or filling you with harmful drugs.

43 km – bridge.  Bad Karlshafen left.

Camping below bridge on right.

bad karlshafen bridge2   bad karlshafen  karlshafen camping 6

The harbour and locks connecting the Diemel navigation to the Weser are now disused.

karls habour lock empty karls habour empty  pegelhaus

44 km – Diemel river joins left

diemel mouth   diemel junct with weser  diemal hydroelectic power station plus fish pass

46 km – ferry. Herstelle left. Wurgassen right

herstelle ferry    herstelle Wurgassen

48 km – road bridge. L763

L763 bridge

50 km – Wurgassen nuclear power plant right

wurgassen nuclear power station2   wurgassen nuclear power station5   wurgassen power lines

Built in 1968, with an output of 640MW, Wurgassen was one of Germany’s first commercial nuclear power stations.  It was shut down in 1995 because cracks had been detected in the steel reactor container. Precautionary, there had been no leak.  It is currently being dismantled.

52 km – Beverungen boat club left allows camping. Excellent facilities.

beverungen boat club2   beverungen boat club

There is also a campsite on the right bank opposite, albeit set back from the river bank

53 km – road bridge. Beverungen left

beverungen bridge    beverungen site of old ferry   beverungen

Honesty book exchange in centre of town. Take one leave one.

beverungen book exchange

57 km – railway bridge

blankenau railway bridge

25 miles – ferry. Wehreden left

wahrden ferry

Schloss Furstenberg right bank at the end of a straight reach. Famous for porcelain. Look how the cliffs have wooded over in the last 100 years.

schloss Furstenberg  furstenburg   Fürstenberg_1909

63 Km – railway bridge.  River Nethe enters left just downstream

railway bridge    nethe mouth

Camping right Wesercamping Hoxter

hoxter weser camping

27.5 miles – bridge.  Hoxter left

Höxter_Weserbrücke      hoxter bridge2

28.5 miles railway bridge. Schloss Corvey left immediately after the bridge, previously a Bendictine monastery, and now a UNESCO world heritage site, is hardly visible from the river.  Camping left in the castle grounds (click here)

hoxter railway bridge   corvey camping  schloss corvey

73 Km – bridge. Luchtringen right

Luchtringen    bridge luchtringen

80 km – Holzminden bridge.  Camping left before bridge. Holzminden right

holzminden bridge2

The old harbour right just before the bridge. Landing spot.  Youth hostel adjacent.

holzminden harbour   holzminden habour2   holzminden harbour2  holzminden bridge and harbour

81 km – Holzminden by pass bridge

holzminden bypass bridge

91 km  – Weserbergland camping left Heisen left. A very scenic village.

weserbergland camping  heisen1   heisen2

93 km – Eversteiner castle left. Allegedly the home of Cinderella’s prince. Hmm?  Ferry. Polle left.  Campingplatz Weserterrassen left http://www.weserterras

eversteiner castle3

94 Km – Brevorde left

brevorde1   brevorde2   brevorde3

97 km – Solar Ferry.  Grave left.

99 km – Dolme right. Steinmuhle cliffs left

steinmuhle cliffs   stenimuhle cliffs 2

102 km – Pegestorf left. The harbour is long disused, and the campsite marked on the map on the left bank just downstream didn’t exist in May 2014. But no worries – two lovely sites on the right bank soon after Rühle.

103 km – Ruhle right   Click here for the cemetery

104 km – Campingplatz Rühler Schweiz right.

bodenwerder campsite   bodenwerder campsite2

106 km – Campingplatz Himmelspforte right.

109 km  – Bridge. Bodenwerder left.

bodenwerder bridge   bodenwerder

109.5 km – Bodenwerder railway bridge

bodenwerder railway bridge2

110 km – Bodenwerder bypass bridge

114 km – bridge. Daspe right. Hehlen left.

daspe bridge 2

118 km – Ferry. Hajen right

hajen ferry    hajen ferry2

120 – Ferry. Grohnde left

grohnde ferry      grohnde ferry3   grohne ferry and power station

122 km – Latferde right.

123 km – Grohnde nuclear power plant left.

nuclear power plant grohnde    grohnde nuclear_power_plant3   Grohnde_Weser_01

This beautiful 1430MW pressurised water reactor, built in 1984, and operated by EoN, runs on both normal uranium and reprocessed MOX fuel from Britain and France, making it one of the most efficient in the world; eight times it has produced more electricity in a year than any other nuclear power station.

In a panic after the Fukushima nuclear leak in 2011 the Germans decided to phase out all nuclear power by 2022, and unless someone sees sense, Grohnde will go.

124.5 km – bridge. Emmerthal left.  Hagenohsen right

emmerthal road bridge

125 – railway bridge

railway bridge emmerthal2

126 km – Tundern windmill set back from the river right

tundern windmill2

127 km – Ferry. Ohr left

132 km – camping right

133 km – bridge Hameln right. Home of the pied piper

hameln bridge1   hameln   pied piper

134 km – weir. Lock left. Island. Canoe shoot. Weir. Bridge. Island. Lock. Weir. Hydroelectric power station.

hameln lock weir and canoe shoot jt       hameln weir jt    hameln canoe shoot

The main road bridge in Hameln crosses the weir

hameln road bridge   hameln downstream road bridge left bank   hameln lock and weir r bank

Jim Thornton


The Barbeque by DM Thomas

July 27, 2014

D. M. Thomas, author of The White Hotel, the best-selling erotic novel about Freudian psychoanalysis and the holocaust, has had a complicated love life.

Soon after marrying his first wife Maureen he got a job at a teacher training college and started seducing his students. One of them, having became a teacher herself, wanted a child. Denise would have lost her job if she’d become a single parent, so Thomas divorced Maureen and married her. He claimed it was a temporary marriage of convenience, and for a period divided his time between the two women.  Eventually Maureen remarried and Thomas went through with his plan, and divorced Denise, but he never quite ended the relationship.

After the publication of The White Hotel in 1981, Thomas was rich and famous. He ran erotic writing courses, and had more affairs. Eventually Denise got cancer and when they looked into what provision they had made for their son they discovered the divorce papers had never been properly filed. They were still married, and remained so, till Denise died in 1998. The following year he married the poetry therapist Victoria Field, and in 2005 moved on to wife number four, Angela Embree.

Does knowing all that help us understand this poem? I’ve no idea, but the final three lines are good.

The Barbeque

My soon-to-be fourth wife
is preparing for our first barbecue,
while my third wife
is taking out and packing books
she’d interwoven with mine
in alphabetical order.

Why is there always so much confusion?
My fourth wife is saying she brought twelve steak knives
from Canada, but now there are only nine.
I was hoping a certain poetry book
was mine, not my third wife’s. I think
the barbecue tongs we will be using
are really hers.

I wish my third wife could stay for the barbecue
but my fourth wife would object,
and maybe my third wife would too.
I wish my first wife’s second husband
would let her come to the barbecue,
and bring himself. My fourth wife
would be fine with that. Why are people
so unreasonable? I wish my second wife
wasn’t dead, but could come too.
But then she wouldn’t be happy with my third wife,
and my first wife not happy with my second.
I know my first wife would like my fourth wife.
Many hands make light work,
and I’m hopeless at this kind of thing –
getting the charcoal to light and
cooking chops, sausages and stuff.

by DM Thomas. From Flight & Smoke

I Look Into My Glass

July 24, 2014

By Thomas Hardy

Published in Wessex Poems and Other Verses in 1898, this was probably written when Hardy was in his mid 50’s. Tess of the d’Urbervilles was selling like hot cakes, he was daringly writing about sex in Jude the Obscure, and flirting with society ladies. But he was feeling his years.

Fifteen or so years later the widowed Hardy would marry his secretary Florence Dugdale, 39 years his junior. He was still a player.

I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say, “Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk as thin!”

For then, I, undistrest
By hearts grown cold to me,
Could lonely wait my endless rest
With equanimity.

But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.

River Medway

July 22, 2014

Leigh barrier to Allington lock

Twenty miles gentle paddling spiced up by Environment Agency canoe shoots. The railway follows the valley most of the way so getting back to the top is easy, and there’s excellent wild camping at Oakweir lock, Stoneham lock and Barming bridge. I dunked my camera so the pictures below are either cribbed from the web (forgive me), or credit Alan or Pete.

0 miles – Leigh flood barrier. Built in 1982 to protect Tonbridge, it wasn’t adequate in 2013, and may need to be raised soon.

leigh barrier    leighbarrier3

It is on the new cut, now the main channel. No easy access.  Better to launch in Tonbridge and paddle up to the barrier.

0.5 mile – old stream joins right.

1 mile – Lucifer footbridge. Barden Park right.

lucifer footbridge

1.2 miles – railway bridge.

railway above tonbridge

River divides round Tonbridge sports-ground.

Left channel footbridge 1 mile.footbridge l channel tonbridge sportsground


Slipway left 1.5 miles.

Excellent launch spot with car parking.    tonbridge slipway2


footbridge after medway slipway medway tonbridge

Alternative right channel. Allotments rightallotments



Boatyard right.1.4 miles – footbridge.

footbridge over right stream

Botany stream leaves right over weir.

botany stream2

1.5 miles New Wharfe Road bridge

medway l channel bridge


1.6 miles – channels merge

1.8 miles – Town Bridge

big bridge tonbridge

2 miles – Town lock right. Sluice gate. Canoe pass. Weir. Millstream leaves left

town lock tonbridge   twon lock2    town lock sluice

town lock canoe shoot    downstream from tonbridge lock

2.5 miles – Cannon Lane bridge. Access left below bridge.


2.8 miles – Botany stream rejoins right

3 miles – Gravel conveyor bridge

gravel pit conveyer belt   medway nr eldridge lock

3.5 miles Eldridge’s lock left. Sluice. Canoe shoot right. In two sections.


4.5 miles – Porters lock. Sluice gates right.  Canoe shoot.  Channel leading to lock left

DCIM100SPORT    porters lock canoe shoot   porters lock

Landing stages

5 miles – Hartlake bridge.

hartlake bridge  hartlake bridge2

Memorial to 30 hop pickers who drowned here 1853 when an earlier bridge collapsed in flood. Access below bridge.

hartlake memorial1   hartlake memorial2

5.25 miles – footbridge

6 miles – East lock right.

east lock   east lock2   east lock downstream

Canoe shoot middle.


Sluice gates left.

east lock sluice gate

6.25 miles – Ford Green footbridge

Ford_Green_Bridge_Medway   ford green bridge2

7 miles – Oak weir lock Right

oak weir lock4    oak weir lock2

Canoe pass middle

oak weir canoe shoot

Sluice left

oak weir sluice

Camping allowed on the island.  No facilities.

7.25 miles – Stilstead bridge

stilstead bridge

7.75 miles – River Bourne joins left.  Footbridge.

footbridge below r bourne junction     river bourne

Hop Farm Family Park right. Many attractions. If that sort of thing floats your boat, pass under the footbridge right to reach the campsite. If not, wild camping at Stoneham lock is only two miles away

8.5 miles – Sluice weir lock left.  Sluice gates and weir middle. Canoe shoot and fish ladder right.

sluice weir and sluice gates   sluice weir   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Click here for a video clip of shooting the canoe pass

9 miles – Branbridges.  Road bridge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbranbridge road bridge2

9.25 miles – A228 bridge

a228 bridge

9.3 miles – conveyor belt bridge

conveyor belt bridge

9.5 miles – Railway bridge

railway bridge below sluice l b   railway bridge below sluice l

10 miles – Stoneham old lock (disused).  Camping. No facilities.

stoneham old lock2

10.75 miles  – Yalding.  Sluice and weir right.  Take lock cut left.

yalding sluice gates   twyford bridge2

Alternatively land right upstream of the booms, portage over the bank to river Teise, under Twyford bridge and down to Marlin canoe club campsite (booking needed).

Footbridge over lock cut (Hampstead lane canal).  Anchor inn left

11.5 miles –  Hampstead bridge and Hampstead lock

hampstead lock yalding4   hampstead lock yalding   hampstead lock and bridge yalding

Hampstead marina right below the lock

11.75 miles – rejoin main channel

13.5 miles – Bow bridge. Wateringbury

bow bridge wateringbury   bow bridge

DSCN3971      DSCN3969

15 miles – Teston lock. Weir right.  Canoe shoot left.  Beware – in two section.

DSCN3966    DSCN3967   DSCN3976

15.1 miles – Teston bridge. Reader’s cricket balls were made in Teston for 200 years

Teston_Bridge   readers cricket balls   ReadersACountyMatch1

Teston bridge county park left. Access and parking.

16 miles – Barming bridge.  Site of old ford. Camping is allowed on the right bank just before the bridge

Barming bridge    barming bridge2

17 miles – East Farleigh bridge

east farleigh bridge   east farleigh bridge2

Farleigh lock. No canoe shoot. But easy portage.

farlegh lock and weir   farleigh lock2   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

18.5 miles – Tovil footbridge.  Access right below.

tovil footbridge

19 miles – Millennium footbridge. The upstream one.

maidstone millenium footbridge   maidstone millenium footbridge2

19.5 miles – Maidstone bridge

maidstone bridge    maidstone bridge2

19.6 miles Maidstone New bridge

maidstone new bridge    maidstone new bridge2

20 miles – Rail bridge

maidstone railway bridge   maidstone railway bridge2

20.5 miles – Maidstone millenium footbridge. The second millenium bridge in Maidstone.

maidstone millenium 2nd footbridge    maidstone millenium 2nd footbridgeb   maidstone millenium 2nd footbridgec

22 miles – Allington lock (tidal limit).  Malt Inn right.  Slipway left.

allington lock2   allington weir and sluices  allington_slipway

Jim Thornton


Rühle cemetery

July 19, 2014

Overlooking the river Weser

This beautiful little cemetery, between the road and the river, enhanced my evening walk.

Ruhle cem2  Ruhle cem   Ruhle cem4

The expensively carved marble gravestones tell the story of Germany’s prosperous and stable recent past. Post war couples reach a good age, the man dies, and after a longish widowhood his wife goes too. No children have joined them yet.

gravestone1  gravestone2   gravestone3

gravestone5  gravestone6  gravestone7

gravestone8  gravestone9  gravestone10

Only one child grave, and only a couple of husbands outliving their wives.

gravestone baby    gravestone he outlived her  gravestone11

Jim Thornton May 2014



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